Monday, August 30, 2010

Show Me Your Teeth!

In my mad rush to take advantage of any and all remaining seasonal produce, I grabbed a giant bushel of basil from my local farmers' market and a few ears of corn (just cuz) though I had no idea what I was going to do with any of it. Sadly the basil had wilted from being out in the heat all day, but I managed to revive it! All you have to do is get a sturdy glass or similar vessel (I used a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup), fill it with an inch or two of cold water, place the bouquet of basil into it, stems first, cover it loosely with a plastic bag, and stick it in your fridge for an hour or so. It totally came back to life and was ready to be sacrificed for a vat of pesto!

Since I still had quite a bit of basil left, I decided to make a basil infused simple syrup so that I could make a refreshing end of summer drink that would be great for sipping on while watching Mad Men or for your end of summer Labor Day bbq. If you wanted to serve this over the rocks instead, you could skip the simple syrup and basically make it like you would a Mojito, muddling some sugar with lemons and basil, then topping it off with some vodka and ice before serving. Actually, I think I'm totally going to try that. I wonder if you would get more of the basil flavor and fragrance making it that way than you do from this simple syrup...Well, at least with my recipe you won't have to worry about errant leaves getting stuck in your teeth. Not cute.

Bitter Basiltini

2 ounces vodka
1 ounce basil simple syrup (see recipe below)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
4 - 5 dashes of Lemon Bitters
Basil leaves for garnish

1. Pour the vodka, simple syrup, lemon juice, and bitters into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake briskly and then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with basil.

Basil Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1. Stir together the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, and let stand for 30 minutes.

2. Pour the liquid through a wire-mesh strainer into an airtight container, discarding the basil. Cover and chill. The syrup may be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Peachy Keen

What day is it? August something? And I'm making turkey stock? Yep. It's the holidays in the magazine biz, ya'll. Thanksgiving today, Christmas next week. So of course I brought home a turkey carcass from work today. Duh. Who wouldn't?!? Making turkey stock on an August afternoon is the most normal thing I can think of to do. (I must say, my apartment does smell pretty great.) But since I don't feel like making or eating soup, I'll probably just freeze it. Or maybe I'll bust out a turkey pot pie this weekend. You never know. What should I really do? Make some peach crisp!

Since we're in the final countdown to the end of summer, I need to get crackin'. I've been buying up all the end of summer produce as fast as I can. Not in the mood to make and roll out pie dough? No problem! Make a crisp. Does the texture of cooked peaches remind you of what you might have had out of the can circa 1979 and make you wanna vom? No problem! Don't make this! Peaches can get a little slimy when cooked. I say just make double the crisp topping and you'll be just fine.

End of Summer Peach Crisp
(Adapted from The New Best Recipe)

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup sliced almonds

6 medium to large peaches (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, pitted, and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Vanilla ice cream, optional

1. For the topping: Place the flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add the butter and cut it into the mixture with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Mix in the nuts. Refrigerate topping while preparing the fruit.

2. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. In a large bowl, toss the peaches, flour, zest, and sugar to combine. Transfer the fruit to a 1-quart baking dish.

3. Sprinkle the chilled topping evenly over the fruit. Bake for 35 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream, if desired. Serves 4.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

True Story

Remember way back to last week when it was nearly a million degrees?

Picture this: It’s the middle of summer. You’re late for work. You decide to grab breakfast and eat it on the way to work. “Oatmeal sounds good,” you think. Never mind that it’s 167 degrees and 3000% humidity. An iced latte and an ice cream sandwich might make more sense considering the weather, but you’re trying to be healthy and you’re starving. While you’re waiting for your train you decide to pop open that paper container of hot paste and start chowing down. (Wait. Are those banana slices on top??? I think I'm going to hurl.) Incidentally, you’re not waiting for your train in some air conditioned waiting room (cue Fugazi here) or on an elevated open air platform with a gorgeous view and a balmy breeze. No, this is the SUBWAY platform, the furthest place you can get from fresh air, where the only view is of stagnant water, rats, and crumbling tiles, illuminated only by the sickening glow of fluorescent lights. Pleasantries be damned, that oatmeal is calling your name so in the hot, humid, foul subway station, you slurp it up while I stare at you in shock and horror, sweat dripping down my face, neck, back, and legs. Not only is it a bazilion degrees, but it smells like a urinal. I can't take it. I'm feeling faint. For the love of God, stop! There are better ways to get your oats, and not on a subway platform. Check out my recipe links below:

(And don't worry. Fall's not here quite yet, despite this rainy NYC day. It will be a million degrees again starting this weekend, so there's still time to complain about the heat before launching into 4 months of complaining about the cold.)

Olive Oil Granola

Oatmeal (Cookie) Pancakes

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Extra Nutty Sour Cherry Olive Oil Granola

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Toga(rashi) Party

Umm...Has anyone noticed that summer is basically over? How did that happen? I went to the beach once (well, pool actually), took a one week holiday and now it’s Labor Day. Practically. Since I’m a slacker who hasn’t been cooking at all this summer, I decided it was finally time to see what was happening at my local farmers' market.

Since I’ve been spending most of my time going out, most recently to one of my favorite local joints, Yakitori Totto with best buds Chad, Julie, and Sandro, I was looking for something quick and easy. The local Japanese eggplant looked the most promising, especially recalling the amazing miso glazed eggplant that I had just consumed at YT. Really I was just looking for a way to eat more Togarashi, a totally addictive spice blend. Shichimi tōgarashi
(Japanese: 七味唐辛子, "seven flavor chili pepper") or shichimi, is a common Japanese spice mixture containing seven ingredients, typically:
  • coarsely ground red chili pepper (the main ingredient)
  • ground sansho (Sichuan pepper)
  • roasted orange peel
  • black sesame seed
  • white sesame seed
  • ground ginger
  • nori or aonori
It’s amazing on yakitori. Something about the spice blend and the grilled meats (and vegetables) is a great combo. You can buy it here or you can even make your own by blending equal parts of the above. (Some recipes include garlic, poppy seed, or hemp seed in place of one or more items listed).

But back to my eggplant...I didn’t have any miso so just did a pan sear with the togarashi and a soy/mirin glaze. It’s super easy and, although not as fab as the miso version, it's still the perfect vessel for eating more togarashi! Hello. My name is Tina, and I'm an addict.

Spicy Japanese Eggplant
(Adapted from Food & Wine)

1 1/2 pounds Japanese eggplants, cut crosswise about 1/2-inch thick
Togarashi, for sprinkling
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Lightly sprinkle the cut eggplant on both sides with togarashi. In a very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons each of the canola oil until shimmering. Add the eggplant and cook over moderately high heat until browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes.

2. Brush the eggplant with the remaining canola and sesame oil. Turn and cook until deeply browned on the bottom and tender, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the mirin and soy sauce to the skillet. Turn the eggplant and cook until glazed, 1 minute. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with more togarashi, and serve. Serves up to 4 as a side dish.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Today I FINALLY received the results of my wine exam. That I took in May. And...I passed WITH DISTINCTION! That's like an "A" I'm stoked.

And now back to your regularly scheduled last batch of vacay photos until I can actually get myself to make something. Out of actual ingredients. And turn it into something to eat. I. Can. Do. It.

Random photos from Capri and Rome. I could get used to this. The living there. Not the looking at random photos, obvs.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


The advantage to not staying at a hotel in a vacation destination like Positano is that accomodations like Villa Pimpinella often come pimped out with a wood fired oven, full kitchen, and grill. And great local markets and shops are mere steps away. So we
had to cook, obvs! The restaurants were fine and we had a few really great meals, but with our killer terrace and access to stellar ingredients, it was hard to not want to chill out with a glass of wine while enjoying the view and some tasty treats.

Nearly every morning Chad and I would hike up the 123 steps to our main neighborhood drag and hit the local butcher, fish monger, fruit stand, and general grocery to pick up ingredients for dinner. We were simply inspired by what we saw and grilled everything from eggplant to steak to pork chops to baby octopi. We also made a few pasta concoctions from local ingredients like zucchini and lemon; tomato, mozzarella, and basil (alla Caprese); and tomato with pancetta and peperoncini. We would then use leftover ingredients in breakfast frittatas or for a pasta lunch after a rigorous (to us) morning hike. Check it!

The main drag at the top of the steps to our villa. Strangely calm...

The local butcher where we bought all sorts of meat products.

Ah, that's more like it. Traffic galore. The only thing that's missing is a bus coming at us from the opposite direction. And there's Chad coming out of the market. Hi, Chad!

Non Solo Frutta, our favorite shop just across from the market pictured above. Non solo frutta! They sold wine, pasta, coffee, and...gasp...vegetables too!

The appetizer portion of one of our meals: grilled romaine. We bought it one night to make a salad and then decided that salad was...bor-ing! A quick toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then a few minutes on the grill, a squeeze of lemon and...ta-dah!

This local sausage accompanied the grilled romaine. We were just getting the grilled warmed up for the meat fest to come.

The nightly table setting.

The wood burning oven. We could have opened our own pizzeria. For realz.

Grill fest.

Grilling the eggplant.

Buona sera, Sr. Polpo!

The main local red grape variety is Aglianico and Taurasi is a specific wine region in Campania. We discovered another brand of Taurasi in a local restaurant and then tracked it down to a local wine shop. After two days of buying that particular wine, the shopkeeper turned us on to this particular bottle and it was spectacular. I think we bought them out.

Spiedini (meat skewers) made at the local butcher. Sausage, chicken, pork belly, lemon leaves...I have a feeling that they make them to sell the small pieces of meat that they wouldn't otherwise be able to sell. Well, it worked!

The kitchen where all the magic happened. Note the glass of red wine, the key to all good cooking.

Bag 0' fresh pasta.

Our version of pasta all' amatriciana.

Cold leftover pasta...Caprese and zucchini lemon.

Newly invigorated leftover pasta.